Hawkins\Brown designs pool that will give the sense of "swimming amongst the trees"

| 13 comments

A cross-laminated timber roof covers this six-lane swimming pool, which London firm Hawkins\Brown plans to add to a school in Surrey (+ slideshow).

The 25-metre pool is the second phase of the masterplan developed by Hawkins\Brown's for the City of London Freemen's School, which has already seen the completion of a new boarding house and music school.

Ashtead pool by Hawkins Brown

It replaces the school's original pool building, which was destroyed following a fire in 2014, and relocates it from the west to the east side of the campus next to the existing sporting facilities.

Ashtead pool by Hawkins Brown

The swimming facility building is constructed using a series of glue-laminated timber (glulam) portal frames, structurally braced with cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels.



CLT is an engineered wood formed by glueing together several layers of lumber at right angles to each other, making it much stronger and more rigid than normal wood. Hawkins\Brown previously used the material to create a "record breaking" apartment block in London's Shoreditch.

Ashtead pool by Hawkins Brown

A pitched roof running diagonally across the rectangular plan of the building is intended to blend in with its woodland surroundings.

This diagonal ridge is visible through the interior of the pool hall, and is punctuated by a series of the glulam beams.

The highest point of the roof highlights the entrance, which is visible through an entirely glazed facade.

Ashtead pool by Hawkins Brown

"Our design for the City of London Freemen's School's new pool sits gently within the wooded landscape of the school grounds," said Hawkins/Brown associate Adam Cossey. "The deep columns of the all-timber construction and wraparound glazing, which gives direct views from the water into woodland, will give the sense of swimming amongst the trees."

"The all-timber construction has a number of advantages in dealing with the challenges of a pool environment – it's resilient, waterproof and environmentally sound," he added. "It also provides a beautiful, natural surface that creates a special environment to swim in."

Ashtead pool by Hawkins Brown
Building model

Duggan Morris Architects similarly added a timber roof to the interior of a school swimming pool in Buckinghamshire in order to reduce sound reverberation.

In order to minimise disruption caused by construction, the building will be manufactured off-site before being shipped back for assembly.

Hawkins/Brown was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2013 for its work on the regeneration of Park Hill estate in Sheffield. The firm also created a brightly painted timber extension for the Oily Cart Theatre in south London.

  • M.L.

    There’s a thing that bothers me. Matter matters these days, which is great. Even the UK finally figured out that wood and bricks are nice.

    But there is something very wallpaper-ish about it all. In the last 15 years of brick architecture I’ve barely seen one single building with an actual brick lintel. And barely one single wood construction that was in fact built in wood (and not in some form of glued and laminated wood composite).

    Don’t get me wrong, laminated wood is not a crime. But it hardly makes sense for it to replace wood as a standard.

    It’s not a crime to build in laminated wood, but it’s not a crime to actually build in wood, either. We don’t always HAVE to use simplified materials for simplified architects. To please our engineers, or simply because we don’t bother to understand the materials we build with.

    • J83

      Understanding materials also involves their spans, hence the use of glulam.

      • M.L.

        Of course, wood construction in large spans means designing composed structures. It’s not the same architecture, though a well designed wooden skeleton might have been perfectly handsome in a project like this one.

        It might even end up being as expensive as glulam in certain projects.

        Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I loathe glulam. I’m not saying that the use of glulam isn’t a perfectly reasonable option in a project like this one. But from there to only ever seeing glulam, one starts to wonder whether it isn’t just a form of fear for non-simplified materials that has slipped into our system.

        Have we become as much cowards as most of our engineers are? We like wood as long as we can draw with it as if it is concrete?

        • Meme

          I understand your point, but swimming pools are the wrong typology for that matter. There are programmatic typologies that don’t need so long uninterrupted spans (dwellings, offices, various public buildings).

          Whether Hawkins/Brown’s proposal brings forth the best of glulam is another matter. It doesn’t seem tectonically most logical, but mainly depends on the engineered properties of laminated timber and its 90 degree connections. That’s the wallpaper-ish effect and I agree with you.

          My point is that glulam is OK with swimming pools, but it could have been used in a more logical way in this proposal.

  • quiet commentator…

    Startlingly original. Well done.

  • Stu

    I have got to say I prefer the Duggan Morris pool. Beautifully executed and actually lends itself more to swimming beneath a canopy of trees than the Hawkins Brown proposal. All things said, I would quite enjoy a swim in either.

  • Durgen Jensen

    When paired with their other recently built projects on campus you can see it is a well organised, no nonsense kind of place, but in a good way.

  • Concerned Citizen

    “The deep columns of the all-timber construction and wraparound glazing, which gives direct views from the water into woodland, will give the sense of swimming amongst the trees.”

    Ummm, no, it doesn’t. It gives the sense of swimming in a nice barn, that’s all. Maybe, just maybe, if the openings had gone to the roof and the columns were less imposing, being among the trees could have been imagined.

  • alex

    No internal lighting? Hope there’s enough ventilation in there or the timber will rot, however well it is treated.

  • Co Pic

    Duggan Morris knock-off… Just shows HawkinsBrown have lost any sense of originality. Nice visualisations though!

  • Honest John

    HawkinsBrown or Faulkner Brown? Looks like the same composition as their steel pool. Maybe a nicer site but the same lines in structure and skin. Come on Hawkins Brown.
    http://www.dezeen.com/2015/10/09/faulknerbrowns-architects-hebburn-central-community-centre-library-newcastle-rusted-steel/

  • Sean Rosin

    The cross-laminated timber roof will help it to sit in its environment well. I think the whole building is solid and beautiful. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

  • Seo Tech

    Nice information.